Proud to be American?

I want to be an American that stands proud that we opened our arms and doors to the people who needed it most.  Though from all outward appearances it looks like many elected officials and people in positions of power are doing the exact opposite.

I want to be proud that we act out the verbiage on the Statue of Liberty, accepting the weak, the small, the poor, the tired. Except we aren’t.  I wish I could say I was proud to be an American, but I don’t know if I can say that, and it not only makes me sad, it shames me.

People should love where they are from. They should hold proud the ideals and behavior of their home nation, but in all honesty, I find it hard to hold my head up high when across the globe we are viewed as racist and xenophobic.  And, well, we are racist and xenophobic. We are viewed as a country who would rather brag about how grand we are than show how grand we are.

The President of France is going to honor his commitment to help relocate 30,000 Syrian refugees.  He espouses the idea that in this time of utter darkness, Paris can still be the light, and should be the light.  And in American what do we have?  We have letters and memos with words of discrimination and exclusion, closing metaphorical doors to the United States.  Over half of states mayors have indicated they would not help fleeing refugees.  I live in a state that has indicated they would refuse to relocate Syrian refugees, despite it not being in their legal authority.  And that embarrasses me.

I am shamed that I cannot claim love and admiration for this country.  But how the hell can I when it’s elected officials do everything adverse to its founding beliefs and act to tear down their constituents rather than help us up.  And these men and women are elected officials.  Though who elected them is vastly important to note. And we can thank our corrupt political system (so as not to mince words: we have an oligarchy; the US has ceased being a democracy, it no longer operates as a pure democracy thanks to Citizens United). I am appalled by the exclusionary words and actions that this country continuously exhibits. And it’s baffling considering our Declaration of Independence claims to offer the right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.  But, we do not have as many freedoms as many would trust. I do not have freedoms, though I am free person.

I do not make as much as my fellow man because I have a vagina and they have a penis.  In-fact, I make 77 cents to every dollar earned by a man for no other reason than he is a man and I am not. There is no freedom in being a woman in the United States. I cannot make medical decisions about my own body without being subjected to domestic terrorism, though nowhere near the level of terror precipitated by ISIS in Syria, Iran, and Iraq. Additionally, I have officials in government actively attempting to take away that right.  We do not have freedom of leisure, an important facet to the American Dream, because we currently do not have an economic system that allows it. Too many of us are beholden to unimaginable amounts of debt because the cost of education is astronomical and the cost of living has risen drastically. We are not free to participate in education; it comes with a price tag too great for far too many. Freedom in America is intricately tied to how much money you have, therefore it is not true freedom.

I am shamed by the actions of my country, but moreover I am shamed that I dislike my country so much. I should love it. I should admire it and hold it up as a litmus of the values and ideologies I cherish. But this country has ceased being a beneficial force in the world and has devolved into a whirlwind of judgement and condescension. I am embarrassed at my level of dislike for the country I live in, but it’s hard to be proud of a place that feels the appropriate reaction to victims of terrorism is to deny them a place to come and stay.  Nor is it an appropriate time to recall when we rounded up Japanese-Americans into internment camps because they looked like those who bombed us.  It’s shameful when such a blight on our national conscience is used as a pro.  Or when the United States turned away Jews during WWII and the Holocaust because of long-held beliefs we are superior.  And finally, the argument that we don’t want to breed the terrorism in this country that is apparent there (which is not even a kosher argument because we have domestic terrorism daily, such as when a Planned Parenthood or other Women’s Health Clinic gets death threats and actual bombs kill medical professions or when black and brown kids don’t feel safe from members of society meant to serve and protect). It’s shameful.

My paternal side of the family came over from Europe when my dad was eight. They were escaping an economy and lands depressed by years of war. If they had been turned back, my life as I know it would cease existing. The American Dream was supposed to be about hope, supposed to be about providing avenues in order to accomplish the “dream” of freedom from oppressive governments, freedom to follow ideas and practices and beliefs and not suffer judgement and persecution. These were the ideals this country was founded on. And yet we are turning away victims of human rights abuses and terrorists. To clump Syrian refugees in with the terrorists they are fleeing is not only horrifically closed-minded, but it’s absolutely wrong.  Terror groups like ISIS are spreading a narrative of hate and these attacks are meant to give credence to that narrative, are meant to underscore the great divide between the “western” world and Muslims.  And let me reiterate: there is no divide.  A human is a human.  To close our doors to these people is only underscoring the narrative of hate.

I don’t even know if I can be angry anymore. I’ve been angry for years. Now I just feel saddened, shamed, embarrassed, and utterly, profoundly disappointed.

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